Before even a minute had passed, Patches knew it had been a mistake to invite the turtle along. For one thing, he worked alone. Always. For another, escape from the doctor’s back room would have been much easier if he could slip into his feline form. Unfortunately, the turtle was neither agile nor fast enough to make it through the window, and much too cumbersome for a cat to deal with. He now sat in the crook of Patches’ arm, while Patches considered his options.
The door was no good. He’d have to walk by the doctor again. Could he scale the wall outside with the turtle in tow? Or maybe he simply needed to dispatch with the doctor. A careful swipe of a claw could do it…
Decca interrupted his thoughts. “Y’ might have luck with the fire escape, mate.”
Luck, as Decca pointed out, was on his side. Glancing out the window, he saw that the rusted fire escape remained intact.
“Thanks, mate” Patches whispered. Perhaps the turtle would come in handy after all. Patches needed more rest, and a second set of eyes to keep watch might be just the thing. He tucked the turtle into his coat pocket, hoping he’d remember to take care and not squish him.
Unfortunately, as Patches swung his legs out the window, the door creaked open slowly.
“Better run for it!” Decca shouted squeakily.
“Hey there!” Dougal yelped. “Doctor, come quick!”
Patches flew down the stairs of the fire escape with catlike grace. He didn’t hear anything behind him, but did not give in to the temptation to look back. He was much too experienced for such an amateur mistake.
He jumped the last flight and landed squarely on both feet, crouched and ready to spring. Seeing a fence on one side and an alley on the other, Patches broke into a sprint. He rounded a corner and skidded to a halt at the sight of a tall shadow in a coat and hat. The garb obscured his face, but Patches wasn’t taking a chance – he pivoted on one foot and ran the other way…
…smack into the doctor.
“Leaving so soon, my guest?” the doctor said, wiping his scalpel on his already quite bloody coat. His tone belied his face, which played with a toy of a smile in one corner. “What a shame. I had arranged for some company to amuse you.” He gestured to the figure behind Patches.
Instead of turning to look, Patches lithely bolted sideways down the alley, back the way he came. There was no way anyone could catch him, he felt. He had never moved so fast. His legs hardly felt like they exerted any energy at all. He flew to the fence, intending to hop the chain link.
In mid-leap, however, he felt something powerful yank him backwards.